10 Questions For: Zeke Turner, Mainstreet CEO

What do you get when you drive through the night to knock on Warren Buffet’s door unannounced? Paul Ezekiel “Zeke” Turner, Chairman and CEO of Carmel, Indiana-based senior living developer Mainstreet tells us what he found when he decided to drop in on the legendary billionaire.

In the launch of SHN’s new interview series Turner sheds light on his work via Mainstreet to develop an alternative nursing home concept that has become wildly popular. The company now owns several dozen properties in Canada and the U.S. with more development plans under way.

Turner also talks about taking senior living far, far away from the status quo. And why failure isn’t always the worst thing after all.

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10 Questions for Zeke Turner—Chairman and CEO of Mainstreet

The biggest challenge in the senior housing industry is…. the status quo. Changes in consumer preference and health care services are having a dramatic effect on the seniors housing and care business. However, many operators delay action out of fear (or in most cases do not act at all).

Those operators who fail to embrace the next generation of health care will find their operations, properties and business model functionally obsolete.

The future of senior housing is …. an expansion beyond being just “seniors” and instead seeing the industry become more of a true health care service (for senior care) or socially engaging lifestyle environment (for senior housing). Baby Boomers are not seniors and never will be seniors – because they don’t define themselves this way. Even more, it is not uncommon to need rehabilitation and therapy under age 65. The new consumer is younger, more demanding and has much higher social expectations that previous generations. These trends, along with technological innovation, will completely change the seniors housing and care industry.

I entered this industry because… I saw incredible – and growing – demand for need-based services that was paired against underwhelming supply. Eighty-one percent of Baby Boomers say they cannot stand the idea of the “nursing home,” yet four out of five indicate they would stay at a “hotel-like” property for rehabilitation and therapy, if it was available. This disparity creates a great investment opportunity. Based on this, I began developing a redesigned nursing home that instead looked like a much more desirable, boutique hotel. The results have been incredible.

Before I entered the senior living industry I was…an investment banker on Wall Street with Citigroup, working in the Health Care and Latin American investment banking groups.

The way we can improve senior living is . to not get stuck in the way things have always been done. My company seeks to pioneer new ideas toward solving existing problems. We encourage people to realize how much better it can be – in real estate, operations, care, everything.

You can’t always be…. afraid of failure. John Maxwell says, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently. Failure only truly becomes failure when we do not learn from it.” Freeing yourself from the fear of failure allows you to take more risk, to grow and to development both as a person and as an organization.

Something nobody knows about me is… I really like musicals. Also, I have six young children ranging from age 8 to six months.

Craziest thing I’ve ever done… drive through the night to Omaha while a junior in college to knock on Warren Buffett’s door to ask for an internship. I didn’t get the internship (even though I begged and pleaded!), but I did get an invite to the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting that year. I even got to ask a live question of Mr. Buffett during the Q&A session.

Every morning I…. begin with a cup of coffee, Bible study and prayer. Successful people always know their priorities and do things in the right order. Without question, my relationship with Jesus Christ is the top priority in my life.

My first job was… running a roadside fireworks stand at the age of 8. I had to pay booth rent and utilities, but got to keep 30% of all sales revenue. I did this every summer until age 22 and it was my first introduction to running a business. I never really got it out of my system.

Interview compiled by Elizabeth Ecker

Know a senior living industry member who would like to answer 10 questions for consideration on SHN? Email us with his/her name and contact information. 

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